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Frozen Lakes Send Gulls To Local Area

By Staff | Mar 11, 2015

Gulls congregate at the Hydro parking lot in New Martinsville. (Photo by Amy Witschey)

Those who have frequented the Ohio Valley riverfront area lately might have noticed some interesting visitors flying about, mainly on Hydro Drive and at several of New Martinsville’s plazas. With their interest in water and their gray and white outward appearance, one might be quick to call these feathered fowl seagulls; however, Susan Olcott of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources states that this is not the case. In fact, there is no such thing as a sea gull. They are simply “gulls.”

“Sea gulls is like a laymen’s term,” Olcott states.

However, as one might guess, these gulls have migrated from the north, from the Great Lakes region. Olcott states that these gulls need to feed mostly on water-type prey. With the frigid weather in the Great Lakes area, their source for food has frozen over.

“There are several species of gulls,” Olcott notes. “The ones we normally have are ring-billed gulls. They are typically the ones you get in the parking lots.” Olcott states that this area also sees herring gulls, black-backed gulls, glaucous gulls, and iceland gulls.

“In the fall we get a lot of bonaparte’s gulls. They are cute little guys, but they winter away further south.”

As for helping our feathered friends?

“No, you shouldn’t really feed any wildlife,” Olcott states, adding, “even if our heart goes out to them.”

Olcott notes that the gulls pick up all sorts of things to feast upon. “They are scavengers. They make a very good living. Gulls are very resilient.”

However, our vacationing friends are most likely about to head back north “once the ice starts to break up,” Olcott notes.

She attributes this sixth sense of knowing when to go back home to genetics. “That pattern became the norm,” she notes. “Remember birds like gulls have seasonal migrations based on what prevailing climate is. They are fairly intelligent and able to adapt to varying conditions. They can fly great distances and are very efficient. They can travel 50 to 60 miles a day.”

“These guys are good at it,” Olcott notes. “They follow a waterway.”

“So often the parents were taught by their parents and are teaching their kids about it. It’s a community.”